Bids to fly in for rare artefact at Limerick auction

Anne Sheridan


Anne Sheridan

NAZI flags, Hitler Youth clothing and dozens of LPs from The Beatles are among the items set to go under hammer in three auctions in Limerick this month.

NAZI flags, Hitler Youth clothing and dozens of LPs from The Beatles are among the items set to go under hammer in three auctions in Limerick this month.

But out of some 800 lots the item which is causing the most excitement, and which could fetch the highest price, is an “extremely rare” autograph book with signatures from Irish Republican prisoners captured in Limerick nearly a century ago. It has a guide price of between €2,500 and €3000.

Limerick Auction Rooms on the Ballysimon Road is holding three specialist auctions this month. Collectibles, toys and memorabilia will go under the hammer on February 14, while a military auction will be held on February 15, and coins and banknotes to be auctioned on February 16.

Historian Thomas Toomey explained that a feature of Irish Republican prisoners in the period from 1916 to 1924 was the manner in which they kept autograph books with entries and inscriptions from fellow prisoners.

“This practise was begun after the Easter Rising and it continued right through until the last of the Republican prisoners were released by the Free-State Government in 1924,” he said.

Auctioneer Daren Parish said the book, which is being sold by a Limerick person, was bought at auction two years ago before its full historical value was realised.

It contains 56 signed pages, with personal messages and reflections of the time from each of the prisoners. “It’s a very unique piece of history and something we probably won’t see again,” he said.

The book belonged to Tom Hales, a high ranking Republican from Cork, and contains rhymes and political aspirations from young men from across the country, but predominantly from Limerick and Cork.

Hales died on April 29 1966 exactly fifty years after the Easter Rising.

Of the men who features in the book is Frank Ryan, who was born in Knocklong, County Limerick in September 1902, and died during WWII in Dresden.

While studying at UCD, Ryan became politically active, took the anti-treaty side when the Civil War broke out and fought in Dublin in the early months of the conflict. Having escaped from Dublin, Ryan returned to the east Limerick area where he was captured.

When Civil War broke out in Spain in 1936 Ryan was instrumental in organising an Irish detachment to fight on the side of the Socialist Government.

He was eventually captured near Madrid in 1938, and due to his rank he was immediately court-martialed and sentenced to death. However a campaign to save his life was orchestrated in Ireland and with the support of the Taoiseach, Eamon de Valera. Another prisoner, Jack Smyth, from Limerick, quotes the following from the book, The Principles of Freedom: “Not all the armies of the Empire on the earth can crush the spirit of one true man.”

There are also notes from Limerick prisoners Gus Gabbett, and Sean Dargan, and his younger brother Thomas.

Other rare items listed for auction include a 9ft WWII Nazi flag, with a guide price of between €400 to €500, and Hitler Youth clothing.

Dozens of items relating to The Beatles will also be up for auction, including 19 LPs from The Beatles, John Lennon, Elton John, and The Dubliners. A ‘rare’ Beatles & Co headed letter from Savile Row in London in January 1971, and signed by Peter Brown, a personal assistant to the band, is among the lots.